So the federal budget was released a little over a week ago, and you want to know what effects it will have on infrastructure. Fortunately for you, I have compiled a short summary of where Australians (and in particular, Victorians) stand. It’s not looking great, but there are some silver linings.
Commitment to the East-West Link continues on, with another $300 million in expenses from 2015-16 and then $600 million the following year. The Victorian government has ceased development on the project, and so the federal budget intends to account for a $1.5 billion withdrawal from unspent state funds. We are also left with this comment “…the Commonwealth remains willing to consider investing in other major infrastructure… in Victoria should the Victorian Government come forward with options.” Ouch.
While investment in roads and highways gets huge budget attention, our public transport system does not. A small $10 million seems to indicate the Government is far more open to dealing with traffic woes by changing the roads, instead of incentivising travel by public transport. The environment once again draws the short straw in this regard. A pleasant exception is the $857 million to be dedicated to the Metro Rail Project
The government is looking for savings of $105 million in the next 5 years by reducing expected costs of contingent projects in Queensland, and reductions in the funding towards Victorian and New South Wales projects. In particular, savings will occur in programmes such as Black Spot Programme (aimed at reducing high risk collision areas) and the National Highway Upgrade Programme.
Notable is a lack of attention to anything NBN. A $8.83 billion dollar final payment confirms the end of the investment in nbn.co, a project which has experienced huge budget blowouts. Australia continues to fall further and further behind in tech-infrastructure as major parties consistently fail to come to agreement.
Critics have noted that the budget is tough on Victoria. Despite population growth rate being the highest in Australia and the population being second only to New South Wales (ABS, 2015), less than 10% of the infrastructure budget will be given to Victorians.
So, the things to take away here is that funding for roads has increased significantly, air & sea benefit (although not quite as much) and rail loses out by a small amount: 1.4% less than last budget. Total dedication to transport and communication is overall up though, at $11.13 billion. Estimates indicate the total budget commitment to infrastructure is expected to fall over the next 4 years. Don’t expect great things from the National Broadband Network- but that’s nothing new. Congratulations – you’re now ready to talk budget at the pub.